I’m constantly impressed with how popular the Moscow Mule has become in the past few years. What was, when I first set foot behind the bar, an obscure drink that most drinkers had never heard of - and most bars couldn’t make - is now literally and figuratively on the lips of drinkers everywhere.

The Moscow Mule has certainly overtaken the Vodka and Soda as the casual drinker’s go-to bar order. But unlike the bland, flavorless combination of vodka and soda water, the Moscow Mule comes packed with flavor. It’s a drink template that offers endless possibilities for variation.

The simplest thing you can do to tweak your Moscow Mule is by adjusting the flavor of vodka you use. Fruit flavored vodkas work well, particularly citrus and berry. Even pepper vodkas work well, but I’d recommend staying away from the donut and whipped cream flavors. And let’s be honest, you’re better than those.

Another great way to fool around with the Mule is by changing the base spirit entirely. My good friend Erick Castro of Polite Provisions in San Diego based his Kentucky Buck, one of the most popular modern classic cocktails out there today, on the classic Buck cocktail with bourbon, from which the Moscow Mule is undoubtedly derived.

Another detail you might be overlooking if you want to take your Mule game to the next level: changing up your ginger beer. Fifteen years ago, it was nearly impossible to find ginger beer anywhere, save for the most obscure specialty food stores. And now, even the most everyday big-box grocery stores carry at least one brand. Brands to experiment with: Spindrift, Maine Root Ginger Brew and Goslings.

At any rate, the Moscow Mule is an extensible formula, which is one of the hallmarks of a truly great cocktail. This weekend I’ll be toasting the sun with Erick’s Kentucky Buck with fresh strawberries from my garden. It just seems like the thing to do.

Kentucky Buck

• 2 oz bourbon
• ¾ oz lemon juice
• ½ oz 2:1 simple syrup
• 1 strawberry
• 2 dashes Angostura bitters
• 2 oz ginger beer


In a cocktail shaker, muddle strawberry with simple syrup. Add bourbon, lemon juice, and bitters. Shake with ice cubes until cold, and strain over fresh ice in a Collins glass. Top with ginger beer. Garnish with a fresh strawberry. Adapted from a recipe by Erick Castro.